Villain Origin Story or Testimony in Progress?

by Maddie Mandall

I recently read a quote by a pastor and author by the name of Sharon Hodde Miller. (Side note – if you are looking for some rich, biblically grounded and insightful teaching from a woman, she is a gem!) She wrote,

“It’s fascinating how many villain origin stories are about failing to deal with their pain. And there is a reason for that. If we allow our wounds to fester, they end up driving us & defining us in monstrous ways.”

There are lots of villains in pop culture, and their origin stories really do reflect this progression of events. My husband must quote from the movie The Incredibles at least once a week. One of the villains in this Disney Pixar movie is Syndrome. As a boy he longed to be super like the heroes he saw saving the day, but he didn’t have the same powers as them. He was brushed off by Mr Incredible, the protagonist superhero, and with that rejection a wound formed. As he grew up that wound did indeed fester. And instead of embracing what he could do for good, he focussed on what he couldn’t, and wanted to see the superheroes experience the same pain he was. Recently Hollywood has become fascinated with villain origin stories with movie adaptations like Cruella, Maleficent and Joker. Wicked took Broadway by storm when it adapted the novel exploring the past of Elphaba, or as she’s known in the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West. These stories all seem to try and make sense of the wrongdoing of these characters – almost to the point where we forget about the awful things they go on to do!

But I want to propose a funny thought, what if these characters had gone on a rich self-discovery journey as a young adult? What if they’d gone to therapy to process their pain? What if they had met Jesus and allowed Him to bring healing and transformation to those wounds? All of a sudden, their villain origin stories would have become the first part of their testimony! The second part of the quote we first read goes on to say:

“This, too, is what Jesus delivers us from. Becoming the villain.”

The caption Sharon Hodde Miller wrote accompanying her quote was, “Your bitterness is taking you somewhere”. This, to me, is the sobering warning that we must heed ourselves.  Our wounds may not make us the kind of villains that we see in fairy tales or Marvel movies, but pain held in the hearts of humans can have dreadful ripple effects if left unchecked. Marriages can be ruined, abuse can be perpetuated, relationships soured, dreams cast aside. We don’t like to think of ourselves as a villain, but when we let our pain and wounds drive and define us, we can become a kind of villain to people we love, and even to ourselves. So, with the offer of Jesus to bring healing and wholeness to us – why wouldn’t we want to take it!?

Sometimes prayer is enough to highlight these wounds and allow God to work towards healing them. Other times we need community too, loved and trusted friends, mentors or pastors to help us shine a light on our wounds so we can process them and heal. Other times, still, we might need professional help – individuals (preferably called by God) to give us informed counselling and guidance on how to understand our wounds and live our life in more healthy ways.

Paul reminds us of this incredible truth in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”. The old can be our wounds, our pain, and the sin they cause, our potential villain origin story. But with Jesus we are delivered, with the help of the Holy Spirit and sometimes other wise and supporting people. We become new, we learn from our wounds and grow wiser and more mature. Instead of going on to cause more pain, we can bring light and love. This may happen a hundred times in our life – some wounds may be smaller; others may feel ginormous. But if we ask Jesus to hold us and deliver us – He is faithful enough, loving enough and mighty enough to carry us through to wholeness. It is a work that is worth doing, an essential part of our discipleship to Jesus. Those healings and deliverances become parts of our testimony, accounts of how Jesus delivers us from becoming a villain!


Maddy Mandall is the Leadership Development Manager at QLD Baptists. She has been a local church pastor, a tutor in preaching at Malyon Theological College, and a barista. She is still a serious coffee lover, it’s her 3rd love after Jesus and her husband Tom. She is also passionate about seeing others follow Jesus passionately and grow in their faith.

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